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Habitats of the Maltese Islands

 

The word habitat (from Latin, it dwells) refers to the environment where a community of organisms lives.  When describing the habitat of a particular area this is usually  classified as a natural or a man-made habitat. In the case of our islands it is often difficult to find habitats which are purely natural – there is no place where the influence of man has not left its mark on our environment. The Maltese Islands, have, after all, been inhabited for millennia and also happen to be very small … and very densely populated. It is no surprise therefore that the heavy pressures which have always been exerted on the islands’ natural resources have changed its whole landscape and some habitats have been modified irreversibly.

 

What is surprising though is that the islands still retain quite an array of habitats and quite a rich biodiversity – more than 4000 species of plants and animals have been recorded (on land) and more than 80 of these are endemic i.e. restricted to just our islands.

 

While man has an undeniable impact on his surrounding environment, he is not the sole influence. Long before his arrival, natural elements had started shaping our landscape and dictating what habitats could evolve. The main natural factors which determine habitat type are climate and substrate (i.e whether it is on rock, soil, clay, sand).

 

Maltese vegetation can be classified into three types:

1.      vegetation which forms part of a community pertaining to the natural successional series (typical of the Mediterranean region) that is woodland, maquis, garigue and steppe.

 

2.  vegetation communities of specialised habitats - where species are highly adapted to a particular type of environment :

      cliffs and boulder screes (irdum)

      coastal communities such as sand dunes, rocky shores, saline marshlands

      Freshwater : Valleys / temporary rock pools

 

3.vegetation communities of disturbed ground – unfortunately these are fast becoming one of the most common habitats created by human interference

 

Let us see each in some more detail …

 

 

1.      The natural successional series

 

Evergreen woodland 

 

Locally there are only remnants of what most probably used to be extensive woodlands dominated by the beautiful Holm Oak (Balluta). Today the few sites where rare ancient oaks survive are considered as being ‘living fossils’ of ancient forests, thought to be over 800 years old and as such are protected, amongst other laws, by the Antiquities Act of 1925 wherein they are described as “National Monuments”.

Buskett is a semi-natural mixed woodland consisting mainly of conifers – parts of it were planted especially during the time of the Knights but some ancient trees such as Holm Oaks and Ash (Fraxxnu) were already on site. Some areas in Buskett have taken centuries to reach a state of natural regeneration and this can take place only if not impeded by misguided human intervention. 

Possible remnants of other ancient woodlands are a group of rare Sandarac Gum Trees (the National Tree Siġra tal-Għargħar) – several placenames possibly suggest its presence in other times (San ġwann tal-Għargħar, Għargħur).

Since 1990 Nature Trust embarked on a project of widespread afforestation of Wied Għollieqa as an attempt to re-create typical native woodlands and other habitats in abandoned fields.

 

 

Maquis 

 

This habitat is characterised by small trees and large shrubs and is usually encountered along valleys, on rocky slopes or beneath inland cliffs. Such areas are often wild and impenetrable and the lush vegetation is not only beautiful but also home to many animals who find refuge here. The maquis habitat is sometimes the result of degraded woodlands where large trees have been cut down but on the other hand it can also represent a positive regeneration of abandoned areas being re-colonised by shrubs - such a process requires decades for nature to restore itself but this phenomenon seems to have progressed ever since overgrazing declined. Typically the maquis consists mostly of evergreen shrubs such as Lentisk (Deru), Bay Laurel (Rand), Honeysuckle (Qarn il-Mogħża), Carob (ħarruba) and Olive (żebbuġa), as well as numerous other smaller plants such as the shade-loving Bear’s Breeches (ħannewija), and climbers such as Common Smilax (Pajżana) and Bramble (Għollieq).

Alas, this rich habitat is often frowned upon and several attempts to “clear it up” or “clean” such areas with chainsaws or fires in just a matter of a few hours have often undone what nature took centuries to develop.

 

 

Garigue 

 

Natural garigue forms on a karstic landscape (on limestone areas) and is characterised by low aromatic hardy shrubs and a multitude of species often constituting a richer habitat in terms of floral diversity than that found in a woodland. It is also very rich in endemic species.

This is a harsh environment where soil, shade and water are very scarce and only the best adapted plants can survive – this maybe makes it even more precious a habitat and yet of all local natural habitats this is one of the most underrated and misunderstood of all as some people still insist to referring to it as “barren wasteland” – a convenient oversight for anyone who wants to turn it into another built-up area or dumping site. Luckily some areas have been scheduled by MEPA and hopefully they will survive the axe.  Garigue is the most widespread natural habitat found locally … or so it is till now unless proposed golf courses and other large scale developments are given the go ahead.

 

Walk through garigue at any time of the year, yes even in summer, and there is always something to catch your senses – whether it is the aromatic oils evaporating from the Wild Thyme (Sagħtar) and the Rosemary (Klin) scenting the air or the sight of hundreds of delicate Mediterranean Meadow Saffron (Busieq) sprouting out after the first rains or the rare orchids making their appearance for just a few weeks in a year.  Some other species include Mediterranean Heath (Erika), Spurges (Tengħud), Rock-Roses (ċistu.), Olive-leaved Germander (żebbuġija), Azure Stonecrop (Sedum) ,  various orchids such as the Maltese Pyramidal Orchid (Orkida Piramidali ta’ Malta) .

 

 

Steppe  

 

Steppe is common throughout the islands and often occurs as a result of garigue which has been degraded by overgrazing and burning. Further disturbance will eventually lead to desertification of the place. However, some areas such as clay slopes support natural steppic communities with bulbous plants and grasses. Such communities are often dominated by Esparto Grass (ħalfa). The steppe too has its natural beauty both in summer when the 1 metre high stems of the Seaside Squill (Għansar) dot the landscape with delicate flowers together with the Fennel (Bużbież)  and in winter when the Branched Asphodel (Għansar) and various orchids rise form their underground abode.

 

 

2.      Specialised Habitats

 

Most specialised habitats can be quite rare or even temporary in nature – making them particularly susceptible to human impact. Plants and animals living in such habitats are therefore quite sensitive to habitat alterations and are at greater risk of becoming endangered.

 

Such is the case with SAND DUNES for instance which are restricted to sandy beaches – which in themselves are already very rare in the Maltese Islands! This is a harsh habitat with sand which is in constant motion and with a persistent lack of water. Not to mention that this is also the habitat which experiences great pressures in summer due to the heavy influx of bathers occupying every inch available. Parking, camping and trampling on sand dunes certainly does not help preserve such fragile ecosystems and should not be encouraged.

Nature Trust is actively involved in the preservation of the unique sand dune at White Tower Bay.

 

 

Another very rare coastal habitat is the saline marshland – very few such marshes exist and they contain some very rare species as well as attracting migratory species of birds. Such habitats are unique in that they form an interface between the marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments thus creating very particular environmental conditions. Plants are typically halophytic- that is they tolerate high levels of salt and they can also survive the dramatic changes in moisture and salinity levels as most marshy areas dry up completely in summer and are subsequently heavily flooded in the wet season.  Nature Trust has held several clean ups and conservation work for the restoration of Il-Ballut Nature Reserve.

 

 

The COASTAL CLIFFS do not only provide awesome scenery – they are also home to most of the endemic plants and to important communities of birds such as the National Bird the Blue Rock Thrush (Merill) and Cory’s Shearwater (ċief). Any organism here must be very tough! This is a sheer vertical environment where every available crack is made use of to anchor well and face the relentless strong and salty winds. This is the preferred habitat of the National Plant, the Maltese Rock Centaury (Widnet il-Baħar) as well as numerous other endemics such as the Maltese Salt-tree (Xebb) and the very rare Maltese Cliff-orache (Bjanka ta’ l-Irdum) and Maltese Everlasting (Sempreviva ta’ Għawdex).

 

 

FRESHWATER HABITATS are not so easy to come by due to the obvious scarcity of rainfall and the permeable nature of most of our rocks. However two main types can be encountered:

o       Temporary habitats such as rock pools which sustain life for only a brief period until the rainwater evaporates – this mini-environment is one of very tight constraints and deadlines … yet it still manages to support plants such as the beautiful Sanicle-leaved Water Crowfoot (ċfolloq ta’ l-Ilma) and amazing crustaceans such as the Fairy Shrimp (Gamblu ta’ l-Għadajjar) and the Tadpole Shrimp (Gamblu ta’ l-Elmu).

o       Permanent watercourses in river valleys – a rare habitat endangered by pollution and over-extraction of water. This is the only environment where the endemic Maltese Freshwater Crab (Qabru) can survive. 

 

 

3.      Disturbed Habitats

 

This type of habitat is certainly not hard to come by at all! It is often what remains of a natural habitat after years of exploitation or disturbance. Typically such areas are rich in alien invasive species which often create serious threats to local biodiversity. Such is the case with Acacia and Eucalyptus species as well as Castor Oil Tree (Riċnu) and Cape Sorrel (ħaxixa Ingliża). Such areas though need not be written off as they often hold the potential for restoration through the planting of native trees and shrubs.

(Published in the Malta Business Weekly February 2006)

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“Nobody cares for the woods anymore…”

 

So laments Treebeard, an Ent in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers. This tree-like shepherd of the forest is concerned with the massive deforestation caused by the evil wizard “There was a time when Saruman walked in my woods. Now he has a mind of metal and wheels. He no longer cares for growing things.”

 

It is difficult not to draw analogies between Tolkien’s epic The Lord of The Rings  and the post-industrial world of environmental degradation, misuse of resources and an awareness which almost comes too late. The awakening of the Ents is slow but the revenge is swift and massive – I am sure many cheered along with me at the success of the Ents who march together to destroy the dark heavy industry at Isengard.

 

Trees, please?

Today deforestation, desertification and land degradation  are an unwelcome reality. But not necessarily an irreversible one. At least on small scales, nature is finding its way back to reclaim its place in long abandoned fields where wild plants, if left undisturbed, can start a process of succession eventually paving the way for longer standing perennial shrubs forming a dense maquis, and eventually a woodland.

 

I long to see the ancient forests  regain their ground, spread their roots and branches and advance onto the land which has been taken away from them. The less trees we have, however, the more they seem to be targets for the axe, or rather, the bulldozer. Hopefully the tide is turning, yet there still lingers an uncanny dislike for trees amongst many Maltese. Trees are disliked because they don’t give any fruit, or they make too much of it (which messes up the streets), because they shed leaves (such nuisance!), or because they hold on to their foliage all year round thus blocking the views of the landscape (aren’t trees also a view in themselves?). Other trees are blamed for attracting all sorts of insects or for ruining buildings. Maybe we have been out of touch with nature for too long. Of past and present generations few recognize any of our indigenous trees except maybe for the carob and the olive - how many have heard of, let alone seen our National Tree? It is a unique tree with a  very limited distribution – the Sandarac Gum Tree which is confined mainly to Morocco, Spain and Malta.

 

No tree should be judged by its uses to man but below is just a brief list of all the services which are provided free …

Air to breathe; fruits to eat; medicinal extracts to heal; network of roots to prevent floods; shields against wind, sunlight and noise; climate regulation; habitat creation and biodiversity enrichment.

 

Indigenous trees

 

We have some 60 indigenous trees and shrubs – most of which are hard to  come by as they have been reduced to rarities. It is unfortunate that up to this day indigenous trees such as the Tamarisk are still shunned and replaced by exotic palms that give no shade. It is unfortunate that we continue to witness the butchering of many trees through excessive pruning and during building works.

Don’t look for regimented trees lined up straight but rather be surprised by the rich variety of species and scents, the dark shining green leaves of the majestic Holm Oak with their silvery underside, the elegant narrow leaves of the Willow tree, the ethereally white Poplar, the delicately scented flowers of the Myrtle and Spanish Broom, the Judas Tree celebrating the arrival of spring with its outburst of pink flowers, the soft cool caress of the Tamarisk tree on a summer evening, the bright red berries of the Hawthorn and the Lentisk. These are but a few of the indigenous trees of our Islands – although some species are indeed hard to come by as they have become rarities in our diminishing countryside.

 

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.  ~Bill Vaughn

 

We have quite a few placenames which bear evidence to the past existence of trees …  sad reminders of a greener Malta of the past. Għajn Riħana (Myrtle), Il-Balluta (the Oak), Wied Żnuber (Valley of the Pines), Żebbuġ (Olive). Many other places seem to be destined to the same fate - Sqaq il-Harrub in Marsaskala and Tal-Harrub in Zurrieq still hold majestic carobs but for how long – both still hang in peril awaiting planning decisions.

 

So many seeds… so few trees

A stroll under an oak tree in winter will bear evidence to the multitude of seeds it bears each year. But why do these never make it to mature trees? Malta has just above 1% of its land covered with trees. 1%! With such a meager figure one cannot but be emotional and cry out at even just one more single tree which is cut down in the name of progress.

Trees of course require space and soil where to grow and such habitats are being eroded away rapidly by building development, valley works, roads and insensitive agricultural reclamation or “clean-up and tidying operations” which clear away hopes of any woodland attempting to regenerate.

 

Forests in Malta?

It is very probably that the Maltese Islands had a much wider coverage of woodland in past  millennia. Eventual deforestation, overgrazing and plantations were its demise whilst the last blow was struck especially in last century’s widespread building boom.

 

There is something mystical and powerful about ancient trees and woodlands. They demand respect – if only they could speak. Very few remnants of original woodland remain – but herein lie some true “National Monuments” as the Antiquities Act of 1925 aptly describes the massive oak trees which have seen a thousand years of life on these Islands.

 

 

“EVERY OAK TREE STARTED OUT AS A COUPLE OF NUTS WHO STOOD THEIR GROUND” (ANON.)

Sixteen years ago Nature Trust volunteers started to plant a woodland for the future. Despite the lack of funds, the cruel vandalistic attacks, the thefts and the countless fires spread by an insistent group of tree-haters, we did not give up. And today Wied Ghollieqa Nature Reserve counts thousands of indigenous trees the oldest amongst which have grown tall and produced their own seeds. It is always amazing to see the look of surprise on young students’ faces when they are shown a small acorn which has turned to be the great string oak tree which is already offering them shade.

 

No Forest – No Future

We invite you once again to celebrate trees with us as we did last year during the  successful International Week of the Forest - an international venture to focus on the plight of forests (http://www.noforestnofuture.net/).

 

Be the one to help forests set roots again in malta by supporting initiatives of afforestation around the island. Remember, however that a woodland grows slowly – it may take more than your lifetime  

 

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. 

                                 ~Nelson Henderson
 
Published on occasion of International Forest Week on The Sunday Times of Malta April 2006.

 

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Dolphins – revered creatures of the sea, lovers of freedom

 

Dolphins as Symbolic Animals

 

Dolphins – cute “smile”, sleek body, perfect swimmers, charming behavior - it’s difficult not to love them, not to feel an instant attraction – the aura that surrounds them is one which stirs up deep feelings in many.

 

An animal revered in many societies, the dolphin’s image was, and still is, linked to human notions of intelligence, kindness and friendliness – attributes we seek so often in our human counterparts. Many stories, dating back even to Greek mythology, recount how these kind creatures often helped mariners in peril – indeed a welcome sight in otherwise treacherous waters. A constellation in the night sky was also dedicated to “delphinus”.

 

 

‘To the dolphin alone nature has given that which the best philosophers seek: friendship for no advantage.  Though it has no need of help of any man, yet it is a genial friend to all, and has helped man.'  - Plutarch

 

The Boto – a river dolphin inhabiting the rivers of the Amazon is partly protected as it is considered an abomination to cause it any harm – it is believed to have the ability to change into human form.

 

The image of the dolphin has been used so often it must have rendered many a millionaire what with countless souvenirs, posters, greeting cards, logos etc being mass marketed all over the globe. Locally, beachtowels, tshirts, caps, the dolphin features in all – though it is no longer so commonly seen in our waters. There is no doubt about it – dolphins are crowd pullers, they are always en vogue and ever so popular. It is an animal that is respected and loved. But there lies a thin line between love and abuse, between misinformation and proper education.

 

Intelligent roamers of the sea

Research by the US National Science Foundation has shown that dolphin brains are highly encephalized – that is they have very large brains when compared to their size – a measure which is not so far from the equivalent of the human ratio. It has also been demonstrated that a wide variety of behavioural abilities of dolphins include “mirror self-recognition, the comprehension of artificial, symbol-based communication systems and abstract concepts, and the learning and intergenerational transmission of

behaviors that have been described as cultural” (source: http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/507971/?sc=wire)  The possibility of the use of tools is also a new and exciting discovery which continues to illustrate the highly evolved brains of such animals.  

 

 

Dolphins – life in the wild

Despite the many attempts at mis-education undertaken by dolphinaria – a dolphin’s home can only be the vast sea. No other habitat replacement can ever even get close to re-creating a similar environment with all the diverse features of the sea, the freedom and, yes, the everyday survival battle. Dolphins have evolved and adapted to such a marine environment and it is up to us to ensure that the seas are freed of human threats rather than taking them into captivity upon the poor pretext that the sea is full of dangers!

 

Fast swimmers: their streamlined, muscular and smooth body allows for speeds of up to 40km/hour

Weathered travellers: they often cover up to 40 miles a day – they are on the go all the time!

Deep sea divers: dolphins can hold their breath for several minutes and can dive down to 300m

Great acrobats: dolphins are playful animals – they love speed,  performing acrobatic leaps and bow-riding

Excellent communicators: dolphins produce two types of sounds – clicking sounds used for echolocation – to locate food, obstacles; and high pitched whistles to communicate states of alarm or excitement and to identify eachother

Essentially WILD animals: dolphins travel great distances every day

 

 

Dolphins – Dying to entertain you?

The devotees of dolphins often claim that they are special, mystic creatures – but some feel the necessity to take it a step further and support entertainment businesses that have been capitalizing on this feeling for decades. As the saying goes “if you love someone, set them free” – it is an anomalous situation where many dolphin lovers actually support the cruel industry which is causing so much suffering and losses to the dolphin community. If you claim to love dolphins then visiting a dolphinarium is certainly not the way to show it!

 

Dolphins have been recognized as being highly sociable animals living in complex groups and families – recent findings clearly show that such groups often have a key member that leads and ensures the cohesion, and thus the survival, of the rest of the group. The taking of dolphins from the wild to supply dolphinaria for their entertainment shows is a major threat to dolphin survival – the hunts for dolphins are merciless and cause havoc amongst groups often ending up in bloody massacres (vide attached photo of dolphin drive hunts in Japan) where many suffer trauma, injury or die during the process.

 

Denied their basic needs, their distorted by being captive and forced to perform, the revered creature is turned into nothing more than a clown in a circus act

Is there any tank that is large enough? No. Some of the larger tanks existing to date still are some 700 times smaller than a dolphin's daily swim range. Dolphins are protected locally in the wild – but not so much so in captivity where they face a life of boredom which often drives them into depressed or violent behaviour.

 

No aquarium, no tank in a marineland, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marinelands can be considered normal.... It is certain that the study of human psychology, if it were undertaken exclusively in prisons, would also lead to misrepresentation and absurd generalizations."
-- Jacques Cousteau

 

The joy, or otherwise, of seeing a dolphin

It always was my dream to see a dolphin at close range. But I never expected the deep sadness that accompanied me throughout and for a long time after my visit a few years ago, as a volunteer of marine Life Care Group (now Nature Trust) to assess the situation at the local dolphinarium. Four Black Sea Bottlenose dolphins were brought over and kept in a miserable, filthy and shallow pool. Their fins stuck out of the water  and their eyes, their whole bodies expressed mirrored the sadness of it all – such a  majestic, powerful creature locked in a concrete prison in the basking sun. This was not what I had wanted to experience. It left a mark on me to this day – Bhudvan, Kvitcha, Pega, Chigra are just names now as all seem to have died. Their sadness was passed on to the victims of this fate – dolphins captured from the wild in Cuban waters which were brought over two years ago.

 

The true joy, however, also came along on the various lucky encounters of groups of wild common and bottlenose dolphins while at sea. Dolphins may not be so conspicuous but they still are found in our waters – they can even be sighted during the ferry crossing between the islands. The fleeting moment, when everything happens so quickly and you are cursing yourself for not having a camera, lives on in the memory as well and can never be compared to seeing a dolphin caged in and made to perform unnatural tricks. Dolphins should be appreciated from a distance … and with no strings attached.

22nd July 2005

 

 

Il-Ħajja mimlija enerġija madwarna – mhux il-ħajja mgħaġġla tal-bniedem jew it-traffiku jew l-istorbju ta’ l-industrija u l-fabbriki … izda tilmaħ preżenza, kultant sottili ħafna, ta’ ħlejjaq oħra li jagħtu inqas fil-għajn. Ħafna twarrbu fil-ġenb, fil-kurituri dojoq u rqajja żgħar ta’ fdalijiet ta’ ambjent naturali mhedda mid-daqqa tal-gaffa, mill-konkrit, mit-tniġġiz, u mill-inġenji ta “żvilupp”. Oħrajn adattaw xi ftit jew wisq għal konvivenza sfurzata mal-bniedem fl-ambjent urbanizzat fejn ifittxu spazju f’kull roqgħa – sostituta fqira għall-abitat oriġinali tagħhom. Dawk li ma laħqux jew li ma setgħux  jadattaw … inqerdu minn gżiritna. Bħalma sparixxa il-barbaġann, il-bumarin, iċ-ċawla, il-fekruna tal-baħar.

 

Izda minkejja iċ-ċokon tal-gżejjer, il-perċentwali estremament għolja ta’ art mibnija u 7000 sena ta’ ħakma tal-bniedem, għad hemm natura li tibqa’ tipprova iżżomm id-dritt għall-ispazju tagħha.

 

Fid-dellijiet, jekk tieqaf tissemma, jekk ssir ħaġa waħda mal-lejl, tibda tinduna li hemm nightlife ta’ xort’oħra! It-titjira ħafifa ta’ farfett il-lejl u l-ħoss kemm kemm jinstema’ hekk kif ifittex iktar nemus li diffiċilment jiżgiċċalu. Annimal żgħir – l-uniku mammiferu li jtir, iżda wkoll wieħed mill-annimali żventurati li tpoġġa f’dawl ikrah ta superstizzjonijiet. Il-preżenza tiegħu ma tantx tintlaqat tajjeb minkejja li jagħmel tant ġid u ma jagħtix fastidju.

 

Fi żmien il-passa xi kwakka issemma leħinha hi u tittajjar bil-lejl, megħjuna mill-kwiekeb. Forsi hekk teħles minn xi sorpriża ta’ ċomb jaħraq.

 

Jekk tkun iffurtunat jaf tilmaħ xi musbieħ il-lejl – tixgħel u titfi d-dawl tagħha tipprova tikkompeti mad-dawl artifiċjali biex issib is-sieħeb tagħha mitluf idur stordut ma’ xi arblu tad-dawl!

 

F’lejl sajfi bla qamar, ikun hemm ferneżija sħiħa ta’ attivita` mas-sisien – kolonji ta’ mijiet ta’ ċief li jżuruna biss f’dan iż-żmien u li iktar milli tarahom – huwa ċert li se tismagħhom hekk kif jimlew l-arja bil-karba ta’ ħafna trabi huma u jftixxu r-rokna esklussiva tagħhom f’dal kondominju ta’ agħsafar. Jidħlu wara ġurnata ta’ sajd biex iġibu  l-ikel għall-ferħ waħdieni tagħhom - iżuruh kull lejl għal xahrejn sħaħ sakemm ikun lest biex jitlaq il-bejta. Il-leġġenda tgħid li wara l-mewta ta’ l-eroj grieg Diomedes, sħabu tant bkewh li Afrodite iddeċidiet li tibdilhom f’għasafar destinati jibqgħu jlissnu l-bikja tagħhom bhala ċief – isimhom  bil-latin huwa fil-fatt diomedea. 

 

Il-lejl hu wkoll il-ħin fejn il-qanfud joħroġ iħuf għall-bebbux (mingħajr ma jqalleb ħitan tas-sejjieh …)  u l-ballottra biex tikkaċċja bil-ħeffa tagħha.

 

Ma’ sbieh il-jum jinbidel is-“shift” u annimali oħra jibdew jippreparaw għall-jum quddiemhom. L-għasafar jiċċaċċraw, il-friefet jiftħu ġwenħajhom għax-xemx biex isaħħnuhom u l-mazzarell inixxef ġwenhajh tal-bizzilla mill-qtar mikroskopiu tan-nida fina.

 

Ghas-sħana tal-ġurnata joħorġu l-gremxul u s-serp jixxemxu u jiġbru l-enerġija fuq il-blat tax-xagħri. Il-gremxula li tara tiġri fil-ġnien hija speċi unika għall-gżejjer tagħna iżda dal-fatt għadu ma għenx wisq biex tinbidel il-mentalita ta wħud li jistkerrħu lilha u r–rettili l-oħra mingħajr ma jafu eżatt għalfejn. U forsi mingħajr ma jindunaw li qed jitilfu servizz b’xejn li joffru dawn l-annimali għall-bilanċ ta’ l-ekosistema.  

 

Il-werżieq ma jitlifx l-okkażjoni biex isemma leħnu li jogħla iktar u iktar hekk kif togħla t-temperatura u  kulħadd ikun qed jipprova jieħu nagħsa.

 

Fil-ħarifa jeħodlu postu l-pitiross fi triqtu lej klima aktar sħuna – sakemm ma jintlaqax b’xi trabokk f’idejn min jahseb li dak l-unika mod biex tapprezzah.

 

F’pajjiżna l-istaġun tal-ħarifa  huwa ż-żmien ta’ tiġdid għall-ħajja ilgħaliex tfisser qawmien mir-raqda tas-sajf twil u aħrax, ta’ żmien ta’ xemx kiefra u skarsezza kbira ta’ ilma. Il-widien u l-għadajjar ċkejknin jilqgħu l-ilma tax-xita u b’hekk jilqgħu l-ħajja – żrinġijiet, gambli ta’ l-għadajjar u annimali żgħar oħra jieħdu r-ruħ u jisfruttaw daż-żmien qasir ta’ riġenerazzjoni qabel jevapora kollox u l-ilma jerġa jiġi “misruq” mill-atmosfera. Mill-banda l-ohra in-nixxiegħat permanenti li jżommu ftit ilma tul is-sena kollha jagħtu l-unika opportunita għall-unika granċ ta’ l-ilma ħelu li nsibu f’Malta – il-qabru. Dal-granċ huwa endemiku għal pajjiżna iżda huwa f’riskju ta’ estinzjoni minkejja li protett. Tgħid jibqa jidher biss fuq il-munita tal-ħames ċentezmi?

 

Bħalissa wkoll il-baħar jistrieħ – jieħu nifs wara l-folol u traffiku fil-baħar. Anki hawn il-ħajja tkompli – forsi ftit iktar siekta għax din ta’ taħt l-ilma hija dinja ohra. Tisma biss in-nifs tal-bugħaddas. Sakemm ma tesperjenzax it-tisfira ta’ denfil jghum fil-liberta, u mhux fil-habs ta’ ħitan artifiċjali tad-dolfinarju. Iżda din hija dinja wkoll ta vibrazzjonijiet sottili uħud jinhassu biss mill-ħut.

 

U hekk tinżel ix-xemx fuq ġurnata oħra – il-granċijiet joħorġu jiġru jaħkmu x-xtut deżerti, u iċ-ċiklu jkompli.

 

Annalise Falzon, 2006



The bulbous plants impatiently reach out.
The life awaiting underground,
In every crack,
Blooms above ...
As in a dance of love.
                                                             (A. Falzon)

ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT COPYRIGHT OF ANNALISE FALZON